A Story of the Life and Times of Jason Crowley
Copyright © 2014 by Charles W Bird
Copyright © 2014 by Charles W Bird
This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental. The story is protected by copyright and may not be reproduced by any means.
A NEW LIFE
Their time in the house was rapidly coming to an end, Mr. Walter told him they had to be out by May 1st, and he had not been able to find work that would house, feed and care for him and his brother, Willy. Jason asked Mrs. Goli, the lady next door, who did sewing and laundry for people, if she would watch Willy.
She said she would, so the next morning, Jason boarded the steam packet boat to San Francisco. Surely, in that big town, he could find work. He was sitting on the bench as the packet sped down river to San Francisco Bay. It was to be a six hour trip, so he was going to spend the night someplace cheap in the big city.
The man next to him was a gnarled old seaman, smoking his pipe and dreaming of days long past. He noticed the young man seated next to him and asked, "Where ya' off to, young feller?"
Jason explained to the man that his folks had died and he was off to San Francisco to look for work that would support him and his little brother.
The old seaman replied, "Ya' ain't afeared of boats, is ya'?"
Jason said, "No sir, but I gotta get work, me an' Willy have to be out of the house in two weeks!"
The old seaman reached out his hand and shook Jason's hand, "Young feller, I am Captain Orin Cutter of the Tug Calliope. Would ya' be in'trested in workin' on a tugboat?"
Jason looked at the old man and replied, "Iffin' it pay 'nough to keep me n' my brother, I surely would give it a try!"
The old Tug Captain laughed, "Boy, you gotta job! I like your spirit! When we gets offin' this here packet scow, you come with me down to the Ol'Calliope."
The packet steamer docked at Pier 9 on the San Francisco waterfront and the old Tug Captain led Jason along the docks to Pier 32, where there was a collection of harbor tugs tied up.
The Calliope was the largest tug in the row and was docked at the very end of the pier. Calliope was gaily painted in red, green and blue and appeared to be spotless clean!
As they stepped aboard, the Captain hollered, "Hey Georgie, I got ya a seaman!"
A younger version of the Captain came out of the wheelhouse, smiling and wiping grease from his hands. "Jason Crowley, meet me son and First Mate Georgie Cutter."
Georgie looked Jason up and down and smiled, liking what he saw. He said, "Jason, welcome aboard, we don't much stand on ceremony on the Calliope, but Dad's word is law!"
Jason replied, "Thankee, sir. Do ya' know of a place I can live with my little brother?"
Georgie looked at his Father and they both nodded, Georgie said, "Jason, there be a watchman cottage at our home dock over in Richmond. My Ma and Sister also live on the place, they could even watch after your little one while wes a'workin'."
Jason was near tears, he shook both men's hands and said, "God was lookin' after me when I got on that packet boat. When do I start?"
George turned to his Father, "While you was away, we got a tow of two barges to go up to Stockton. Kin we use Jason on the tow?"
Captain Cutter smiled, "Yup, it'l be you me and Jason topsides and Mickey and Ludenski running the clanker. I guess we best include Old Jack in that too, he gotta shovel that coal!
Georgie grinned, "You best not let Jack hear you call him old, he be mighty touchie about that, just turnin' 30 an' all!"
Georgie showed Jason where his bunk was and set him to work laying out the tow cables for the next morning. By the time he finished the work, Georgie called him to grab a bite to eat, the engine oiler, Les Ludenski was a pretty good cook and he usually fed the crew.
Jason collapsed in his bunk and was dead to the world until the next morning.
Captain Cutter roused his crew by beating on an old iron triangle that hung from the wheelhouse.
Jason woke with a start and sat up, not just sure just where he was. He jumped into his clothes and found the head in a small shack up on the bow, he hoped he never had to use it in rough water, he looked down the hole and the bay was only about a foot below him. He heard a bunch of clanking down in the engine room and greasy black smoke was pouring out the smokestack.
Georgie hollered, "Grab you a sausage and bread, then best you start learning how to cast off the lines!"
Jason stuck his head in the small galley and saw a stack of bread toast and a pan of grilled sausages. He grabbed a sausage and wrapped the toasted bread around it, munching on it as he ran out to the foredeck where Georgie was waiting for him. There were four huge ropes holding the tug to the pier, Georgie named them all for Jason and then left him on his own.
Georgie went up to the wheelhouse, but stayed where he could see Jason in case he got in trouble.
Jason heard the steam engine start to thump and then it stopped. Captain Cutter hollered, "Let Go forward, number 1!"
Jason flicked the chaser like Georgie had shown him and pulled the rope off the bollard on the pier. Then Captain Cutter hollered, "Let go forward number 2" and Jason did the same thing again.
The engine started to thump and the bow slowly swung out, pointing to the open bay. Jason guessed that the ropes in the rear of the tug would be next, so he ran back there.
Georgie smiled and said to his Dad, "This one's got some smarts!" Captain Cutter leaned out of the wheelhouse and shouted, "Let go aft number 1 and 2!"
Jason hauled the ropes in and coiled them like he had the others. The engine started to thump harder and black smoke roiled out the smoke stack and they were on their way to Richmond to pick up two barges going to Stockton!
There were two loaded barges waiting for them at Cutter's Wharf, Captain Cutter slowed the tug down to a crawl and the backed it up to the first barge.
Georgie came down to show Jason how to tie off the tow cable, actually a huge woven rope, to the bollard on the barge. Then the tug took up a strain on the huge cable and moved the barge so it was straight with the tug.
Georgie had Jason follow him over the loaded barge and hook onto the second barge in the same manner.
Slowly, the Calliope took up the slack in the two cables until they were snug, then he ordered the engine to start increasing the power. The sounds coming out of the engine room were more akin to Halloween, screams and moans, clanking and groaning as the steam engine came up to speed. He could hear the furnace roaring and the clank and slam of the furnace door as coal was being shoveled into the boiler firebox.
They headed upbay, Georgie told him that the worst part of the trip was going through the Carquinez Straits, where all the water from the inland rivers had to pass.
It was just turning dusk when the tug and her tow headed into the straits, Captain Cutter hollered down the "Whistle Tube" "More steam, more steam we are in the straits!"
The groans and clanking of the engine grew more intense and the smoke pouring out the smoke stack became blinding, Jason coughed and sputtered as he tried to find a place where the smoke was less.
Captain Cutter laughed and hollered, "Come on up here, Young Jason, it be better up here!"
Jason climbed the ladder to the wheel house and, indeed, it was better up there. The three of them, Captain Cutter Georgie and Jason transited the straits up above most of the smoke, in the Wheel House!
After they were through the straits, Georgie said, "Jason, we need to check the tow, the heavy current puts a terrible strain on the cables!" He led Jason to the stern of the tug and they checked the tow cable for signs of wear and broken twists." They couldn't see the second cable, but it had less strain on it than the first cable.
Georgie said, "I'll take second watch, you keep watch on the deck and the tow cables until midnight, then I will relieve you and you can get some sleep."
Jason was as nervous as a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs, he checked that cable about every 5 minutes!
Finally, Captain Cutter called him up to the Wheel House and said, "Slow down young fella, you doin' just fine. Here you take the wheel while I's go ta' the head"
Jason squeaked, "Me, sir?"
Captain Cutter laughed, "Yeah, you. Jus' keep this pointer on 050 degrees on the compass. You cain't get in trouble out here in the middle of the river!" He continued laughing as he climbed down the ladder and went up to the bow of the tug.
Jason was sure that his arms were going to break off as he gripped the wheel, but pretty soon he got the feel of the tug and how it reacted to the wheel. By the time the Captain came strolling back, Jason felt pretty comfortable steering the tug and tow.
Captain Cutter looked him up and down, then said, "You doin' pretty good there Young Jason you jus' keep doin' what ya is doin', I'm gonna take me a smoke!"
What the Captain actually did was check the tow and cable and took a walk around his ship. He found nothing amiss, Jason had everything coiled up neatly and all the tools were put away where they were supposed to be. He thought to himself, "What luck I had to be on that packet boat yesterday!"
Shortly before midnight, Georgie climbed up to the wheelhouse and relieved Jason, saying, "Ya better get some sleep, Jason, we haveta' deliver these barges in the morning!" He continued, "You, too, Dad, I can handle this 'til daylight!"
Down in the Engine Room, "Ski" had relieved Jack in shoveling coal and Mickey was snoozing on a pile of empty coal sacks.
Georgie would rouse them all by banging on the iron triangle if there was an emergency or at daybreak as they neared Stockton Town.
They had an easy drop off, all the freight was consigned to Western California Freight Warehouse, so they tied both barges off at their wharf and got their forwarding papers signed so the bank in San Francisco would release the money to Captain Cutter.
Western had one barge, half filled and asked if they could wait until that afternoon to return.
Captain Cutter told them they would wait and then he collared Jason, "Why don' you capture that young Brother of yorn' and pack him up. We can carry him back to Richmond on the Calliope. That'l save you having to take the packet both ways to retrieve him."
Jason hugged the Captain and said, "Thankee, sir. I'll make sure Willie stays outta the way while he is onboard."
The old Captain chuckled, "He'll be good company up here in the wheel house, you don't worry none about yore little brother!" He gave Jason leave to go collect Willie and close out his rented house.
LIFE ON BOARD THE TUG CALLIOPE
The trip back downriver was uneventful. Willie was fascinated with everything going on and was especially proud of his big brother, who was steering the tug.
The Engine Oiler, 'Ski, took Willie down in the engine room, but the little boy didn't like all the noise and was frightened when the Fireman, Jack, opened the big firebox door to feed more coal in, the fire roared out at them, like a scene from the Preacher Man's description of Hell!
They tied up the Calliope at Cutter's Wharf in Richmond and Georgie took Jason and Willie to check out their new house. Willie ran all around the house, "Hey, Bro, this place be bigger than our old house!" He exclaimed. It even had running water in the kitchen, fed by a big tank up on a tower that stood over the compound.
Julie Cutter, Georgie's little sister, latched onto Willie and, as the pair ran out the door, Julie said over her shoulder, "Mamma said for you both to come over for supper tonight!"
That was the last Jason saw of Willie until after he had completed his chores on the tug. They had tied up the Calliope "cold iron" as they had no tow orders for the next several days.
Jason got them settled in the new house, he had to spend some of his thin reserve of cash for some food, but they had enough clothing and supplies to get by for a while. He found out that he would be getting $10 a week, whether they sailed or not and the house was thrown in free! He would be expected to do watchman rounds of the boat yard at night when they were docked, but that was only twice a night!
He found the town had a free school for children up to age 14, so he enrolled Willie and walked him there the first day to make sure he knew where to go. Jason was cleaning the decks when he saw Captain Cutter and Georgie running across the yard headed for the pier, Mickey, Ski and Old John hot on their heels.
The Captain hollered, "Help John fire up the boiler, there's a ship in trouble out at the Farallons, we's the only tug big enough to go!"
Jason jumped down into the engine room as Old John was throwing kerosene soaked rags into the furnace, As soon as they caught he showed Jason how to stack coal on the burning rags to get the fire started.
Georgie called down to Jason, "Don't worry about little Willie, Ma will catch him comin' out of school and take him to our house 'til we get back"
As soon as the steam gauge began to register a little pressure, Mickey began bleed steam into the cylinders of the large compound steam engine to warm all the cast iron and steel parts.
Ski started oiling all the bearings in preparation for use and, as soon as they had a roaring fire in the boiler firebox, Old John told Jason he best get topside to handle the mooring lines.
When Jason got up on deck, black coal smoke was billowing out the smoke stack and he could hear the engine groaning as Mickey rocked the steam throttle back and forth to warm the engine.
When the boiler had reached 50 pounds pressure, Mickey blew in the whistle tube to alert the wheel house.
The Captain hollered, "Let go forward number one and two" as the bow hinged out towards the channel. Jason ran aft and was ready when Captain Cutter had him bring in the after mooring lines.
The Captain then blew in the whistle tube and called, "Full pressure ahead!" and the tug began to gain speed, headed for the Golden Gate. As they passed the bay opening called "The Golden Gate" the seas began to roll and the tug was making heavy way, tossing from side to side.
Georgie jumped down on the deck, "This is gonna take both of us, there is a sailing freighter headed for the Farallon Rocks, her mast is snapped and the anchor won't hold. We are going to snag her stern and pull her off, then jump around and run our cable up her hawse and tow her home. You just follow what I do and everything will be fine"
The tug sped across the 25 miles to the Farallons, sea crashing over her bows. About 2 hours later, they spotted the ship, "The Catalonia Lady" and she was less than a mile off the rocks, they had to hurry.
The Captain nudged the tug under the stern counter of the sailing ship and Georgie had Jason hook the messenger line the Lady's crew had shot down to them through the ship's hawsepipe.
He quickly rove it onto the tug's stern tow cable and the Lady's crew hauled it aboard and made it fast to the tow cleat.
The Calliope then drew the cable taught and started to apply power to the screw. The engine began to labor and clouds of heavy black smoke poured out the stack.
Slowly, almost inch by inch, the Calliope hauled the Catalonia Lady away from certain death on the Farallon Rocks. The engine was clanking and groaning, almost in protest to such abuse, the bottom of the stack began to glow red from the mountain of coal Old John was shoveling into the firebox.
The Captain dragged the sailing ship back about two miles before he eased up on the pull. He then stopped the tug and had the ship's crew sent the tow cable back down the hawse pipe.
Jason rolled it up and the Calliope raced around to the bow of the ship and they repeated the procedure through the forward anchor hawse pipe of the sailing ship.
Once the cable had been made fast, the Calliope again took up the strain and began heading for the calm waters of San Francisco Bay.
They delivered the Catalonia Lady to the Quarantine Station and had the Port Captain sign for the towing charges before they headed for Cutter's Wharf.
It was just turning daylight as they tied up to their pier, everyone was dog tired, but Jason was still so excited, he doubted if he would be able to sleep. The Captain's wife had Willie and said she would get him off to school.
Despite his excitement, Jason dropped off to sleep and did not waken until Willie walked in from school! Willie was all excited, "You a hero, Bro, Teacher said your tug saved a ship last night!"
Jason grinned, "Yeah, it were exciting!" Jason was about to start supper for the two of them when Julie knocked on their door, "Mama says to tell you to come up ta' the house for supper tonight!"
She waved at Willie to go play and Jason put the food back in the cold box for another night.
Later that evening, after Jason and Willie had been stuffed like sausages by the Captain's wife, Matilda, The Captain said, "How 'bout you and Georgie commin' the parlor and lets us talk."
When they were all seated, Captain Cutter said, "I got the chance to buy The LeRoy Deal."
Georgie looked at him, "But she be a side-wheeler, Dad."
The Captain replied, "Yeah, but she got two brand new walking beam engines in her and all the paddle blades has been replaced. She be a good tug for here in the harbor."
Georgie looked at his Father and said, "Who you gonna get to Captain her?"
Captain Cutter grinned and replied, "YOU!" He laughed and continued, "I gonna give ya' a fine Deck Hand to run yer ropes!"
He was looking straight at Jason. Jason squeaked, "Hey, I ain't ready fer that yet!"
The old Captain giggled and replied, "Says who? You done better last night than most long time tug men! I got yore rating papers right here, all signed!"
Jason groaned and started to reply, but Captain Cutter cut him off, "Yore pay will be $18 a week and found!"
Jason's head was swimming, that were more than his Pa made workin' in the tractor shop! He grinned and threw a salute to Georgie, saying, "Aye, aye, Cap'n Georgie!"
The next day, they walked over to the Cannery Pier, where the LeRoy Deal was tied up.
Georgie interviewed the engineer, oiler and boilerman. He decided to keep everyone but the boilerman, who was an obvious drunkard.
Georgie said to his Dad, "Doesn't John have a brother who is looking for boilerman work?"
Captain Cutter replied, "Ya', get John to send his Brother to talk at ya. Now I gots to find me a new First Mate and another Deckhand."
He laughed and said, "Willie Crowley ain't old enough yet!"
The smaller tug did not require a First Mate, so when they found a Boilerman, they would be ready to go to work.
John's brother, Joey, jumped at the chance and signed on immediately. Two days later, they got up steam on the "Deal" and sailed her to her new home at Cutter's Wharf. Their first tow was a barge filled with iron castings from the Joshua Hendy Foundry, bound for Otis Brothers Machine Works in Vallejo.
WORKING THE LEROY DEAL
Jason found the new tug to be considerably different than the Calliope, the big walking beam engines responded much slower than the engine on the Calliope, but, with an engine on each paddlewheel, the tug could turn all the way around in the same spot!
The "Deal" could only handle one barge, so hooking up and dropping a tow was much easier. Their biggest customer was California & Hawaiian Sugar Company. They were building a big sugar mill in Crockett, next to Carquinez Straits.
They were hauling two and sometimes three barges a week to the construction site. The two walking beam engines operated on only twenty pounds steam pressure, but they seemed to require a lot of maintenance. The engineer, Carl Bakin, was always pulling something apart at night!
One thing that Jason discovered was two large water pumps set on either side of the wheelhouse. Georgia told him they were fire pumps, that the "Deal" could be used to fight waterfront fires, something that happened a lot.
They rarely had an overnight tow, so Jason was home most nights with Willy. About once a week they were invited for supper at Captain Cutter's home, of course, now there were two Captain Cutters!
One early morning, about 3 am, there was a terrible pounding on the cottage door. Jason went to the door, it was Captain Georgie, he said, "Get dressed quick, there be a fire on the waterfront in Pinole.
Jason jumped into his clothes and raced down to the Deal. Willie knew to go to Mrs. Cutter if he had a problem, so Jason just woke him up and told him he was going.
Carl and Joey were in the engine room getting up steam. Jason jumped down and offered to help stoke coal until the steam pressure began to rise. He then went back on deck, ready to let go the mooring lines.
As soon as the backed away from their wharf, Georgie hollered to Jason to come up to the wheelhouse.
He said to Jason, "You gotta run the tug, you don't know how to run the pumps yet, so just pretend you be Captain!"
He left Jason "holding the wheel" as he ran down to warm up the fire pumps. Jason steered the tug towards the red glow of the fire and as they got closer, he blew in the Whistle Tube and told Carl to slow the engines.
Jason eased the tug closer to the fire, the engines were running just enough to counter the current. He let the Deal drift close to the burning wharf and he felt the tug jump when Georgie started both steam fire pumps.
Two streams of water started shooting out the nozzles bolted to the wheelhouse. Jason found he could direct the streams of water by turning the tug, so he began to play water back and forth across the fire.
Another tug arrived, but it had only one pump, between the two tugs, they finally got the fire put out.
Georgie shut down the pumps and came up to relieve Jason at the helm. He said, "Jason, you done better'n anybody I ever saw, you played those nozzles just right! Looks like we done saved most of their wharf!"
The next day some Navy Officers came to see Captain Cutter and Jason was busy painting the wheelhouse on the Deal the same colors as the Calliope.
Georgie walked up and said, "We got a month long contract! We will be hauling coal up ta' the Navy Coaling Station at Mare Island."
Jason asked him, "Where is that?" He replied, "Up near Vallejo. We pick up the coal barge at the Southern Pacific Wharf in Oakland and haul it to Mare Island three times a week!"
Jason asked him, "When do we start?" He replied, "TOMORROW!"
The Leroy Deal departed Cutter's Wharf at 6 am in order to arrive at the Southern Pacific Wharf at 8. The barge was ready and waiting, but Jason insisted on checking it over before he would connect their tow cable to it.
They pulled out at 9:30 am headed upbay. The Leroy Deal steamed steady all the way to the Navy Coaling Station. They were not ready to receive the barge, nobody had ever delivered a coal barge before 2 pm before!
Jason released the loaded barge and Georgie backed the tug up to the empty barge. As soon as Jason had secured the tow cable, the Deal headed downbay to deliver the empty barge to Southern Pacific, before heading home. The port walking beam had developed a slight knock so Jason volunteered to stay with Carl and repair the pivot bearing. It didn't take all long and Jason was home in time to fix supper for himself and Willie.
The weeks sped by, between trips to Mare Island they delivered construction materials to the new sugar mill and made two runs to Joshua Hendy Iron Foundry with barges loaded with sacked ore.
One morning, very early, Georgie was pounding on the cottage door. When Jason opened it, Georgie told him, "Get dressed, we gotta rescue a runaway barge before the tide turns!"
Georgie ran for the Leroy Deal, Jason let Willie know he had to go, then he ran to help Joey fire up the boiler.
As soon as steam started to bubble in the boiler, Jason went up on deck to make sure all the tow cables were in their proper place and that the Deal was ready to sail as soon as Captain Georgie gave the word.
Jason could hear Carl rocking the steam cylinders, trying to get them to warm up faster. Jason heard the scree of the whistle tube and went to the bow, ready to cast off the mooring lines.
Georgie gave the word and Jason flipped the forward mooring lines off the wharf bollard, then ran aft, ready to do the same. Free of the wharf, Georgie headed the Deal downbay, towards Palo Alto.
They had to dodge a new Navy Ship that appeared to be lost, it was one of the new screw steamers, but they didn't seem to know how to run it!
They ran past Daly City and Oyster Cove before they got to Palo Alto. The barge was nestled into a mudflat, after the tide went out and left it high and dry.
Georgie backed the tug up, close as he dared, without shearing off the paddles. The bargeman shot a messenger line over to the Deal and Jason caught it. He rove it to the tow cable and twirled his upraised fist, signaling the bargeman to retrieve the tow cable.
Just as the tide started to fill, the Deal was ready to take up the slack on the cable. The paddle wheels turned slowly, keeping the cable taut, up in the wheelhouse, Georgie could see the barge start to bobble slightly, he blew through the whistle tube and told Carl to increase the paddle speed slowly.
They were still quite close to the mudflats and Georgie had a horror of shearing the paddle blades off the wheel! Slowly, the tide lifted the barge and broke the suction to the mud and the barge slide forward with a sickening slurp of releasing mud.
Georgie hollered down the whistle tube, "Give me all the steam you got!" The barge followed the Deal out into the safety of the open bay like an obedient puppy.
They towed the barge to the Harbor Master's Wharf, where they dropped it off and the bargeman made it fast to the pier. It was up to the Harbor Master to determine who owned the barge, he signed the dispatch ticket for Georgie, so they could collect towing fees from the City and County of San Francisco.
It was dark again before the Deal tied up back at Cutter's Wharf, the crew was dog tired, but Jason insisted on cleaning up the deck and putting everything away before he went home.
FIRST MATE JASON CROWLEY
The days passed into months, the tempo of barge freight had picked up and nearly every day there was a tow to be made. The Deal was beginning to show the strain, she was a small tug and some of the tows were really beyond her capacity. She was better suited for small, local tows.
They had just returned from delivering coal to Mare Island and Jason was scrubbing coal dust from the decks. Captains Cutter, both of them, came strolling onto the Deal. Both were wearing wide grins and chuckling to themselves.
Jason wiped his hands on an old rag and greeting his employers, who had also become good friends.
Captain Orin Cutter handed Jason an envelope while Georgie looked on with a huge grin on his face.
Captain Cutter said, "Go ahead, Jason, open the envelope." As Jason pulled the paper out, he saw, "CERTIFICATE OF APPOINTMENT, Jason Crowley is hereby appointed FIRST MATE, TUG BOATS - under 400 tons, any waters"!
Jason was so surprised, he nearly dropped the papers! He squeaked, "Me…. Ugh, how?"
Georgie started laughing, "Jason, you are the best thing that has happened for us in a long, long time!" Besides, our new tug is so much bigger, I NEED a First Mate!"
Jason's eyes got big, "New Tug?" Georgie replied, "Yeah, Dad just bought the screw tug "ROAMER" and we take possession tomorrow!" He continued, "It is even bigger than Calliope, you will have two deckhands to work! We will even be able to do open ocean tows!"
Jason had to sit down, it was almost too much for him to comprehend!
Captain Orin Cutter said to both men, "Clean up the Deal, I have a new captain and crew for her. Your crew will go with you, plus two new deckhands and a second boilerman."
Continuing, he said, "We will have to go up to Vallejo to pick up the Roamer, she is just finishing a complete refit, even a new boiler, so tell your crew to be on the Calliope early tomorrow morning for the trip."
Oh, by the way, Jason, can you put up Billy and Paul Coran, Billy is your new deckhand and Paul is the new boilerman. They don't have a place to live yet?"
Jason replied, his eyes still swimming, "Sure, they can have the spare bedroom, I will put Willie in with me." Jason sat down, trying to come to grips with all that had just taken place. HIM, First Mate!
The next morning, Jason roused his two "boarders" and they had a quick cup of coffee and some sliced meat and toast before they headed down to the Calliope.
Paul Coran was the Boilerman and Billy was a Deckhand. Since they were running light, with no tow, they could get by without a second Deckhand. The two brothers were pleasant, agreeable young men, anxious to make good on their first job.
Paul went down to the Engine room, along with Carl and Joey to get up steam. The compound engine on the Calliope was easier to warm up than the walking beam engine had been on the Deal.
They were soon on their way upbay towards Vallejo. The Roamer had gone through refit at Rule Boatyard and was supposedly ready to sail.
Captain Cutter had ordered a load of coal to be delivered the previous day and Carl was itching his fingers to get his hands on a compound engine!
After the Calliope dropped the crew off at Rule Boatyards, Captain Orin Cutter had contracted to haul the Navy Schooner, "Philloby" to the wrecking yards in Fremont, as she had been stricken from the Active Navy List.
They arrived in Vallejo just before noon and the crew walked down the wharf to their new tug. After thoroughly checking the tug out, Georgie signed the acceptance papers, making her his!
Paul and Joey began bring up steam pressure and Carl began warming up his prize baby, a rebuilt compound engine! Jason and Billy checked out the mooring lines, they looked ratty and worn.
Georgie said, "We will replace those first thing in the morning, they ain't safe!"
When Carl hollered up the whistle tube that the engine was ready, Georgie carefully backed the tug away from the pier, Captain Orin Cutter was watched from the Calliope, with a big smile on his face.
They reached the open bay and Georgie said, "Here Jason, take the wheel while I make a walk-around!" Jason had more confidence in himself than his first time at a wheel, he steered the tug out, into mid channel, heading her towards her new home.
THE ROAMER GOES TO SEA
The Roamer and her new crew became acquainted with each other. They hauled construction supplies to the new sugar refinery and pulled two barges, loaded with farm machinery, to Stockton Town.
A second deckhand, Bert Collins, was found and the crew began to homogenize into a coordinated team. They docked and undocked so many times, Jason became proficient in handling the tug in close quarters, as well as on a long tow.
The Deal was returned to service, with a new crew, primarily as a coal hauler delivering coal to Mare Island Coaling Station.
The Roamer had just completed a heavy tow of three barges loaded with iron castings from Joshua Hendy Iron Foundry to Walter Brothers Steam Tractor Company in Stockton Town. It had been a difficult trip, the barges were poorly loaded and the downstream current in the Carquinez Straits was particularly strong. Carl had the engine wound up at full pressure and they hardly made headway!
On the return trip, they pulled two barges of rice grain and made good time. After delivering the grain, they stopped at the coaling wharf in Rodeo, their fuel bunkers were nearly empty.
It was an exhausted crew that tied up at Cutter's Wharf that night, but Jason insisted that the decks be scrubbed clean before any of his crew went home. The two brothers had taken lodging just up the road from their wharf and Georgie had allowed Bert, the second deckhand, to sleep on board the tug.
The next morning, a grinning Captain Orin Cutter was on the Roamer with a fist of papers in his hand. He had a tow for them, two barges loaded with lumbering machinery to go to Portland, Oregon and three barges returning loaded with cut lumber!
Jason shivered, "Open Ocean?" Georgie was dancing in glee, this was what he had always wanted!
They picked up the two barges at Oakland Machinery Supply Company. Jason carefully inspected both barges before he would allow his deckhands to make up the tow cable!
He had the supply company move some of the machinery to better balance the load on the second barge. The tow was finally ready and they headed for the Golden Gate.
Georgie wanted to get out beyond the Humbolt Current before dark overtook them. He didn't want to tow in that rough water in the dark!
Just as darkness fell, they passed beyond the current and the sea smoothed out. They turned northward and hung the tow lantern on the mast, warning other ships of the towed barges behind them.
The Roamer was sitting low in the water as her coal bunkers were filled to capacity for the long trip. They saw few ships on their northward passage, the weather remained friendly and no serious problems arose.
Georgie and Jason spelled each other on the wheel and they were making good time. Georgie was concerned about entering the Columbia River, the Mariner's Charts showed a bar at the mouth of the river with a hazard notice printed on the chart. His Mariner's Guide stated that the water was very shallow going over the bar and that heavy seas could be expected.
When the day came that they turned east to enter the river, he told Carl to have both boilermen ready to shovel coal and Jason was to have both deckhands in the wheelhouse to help as needed.
Georgie stood on one side of the wheel and Jason on the other as they passed over the bar, the Roamer was surging wildly and it took both men, straining on the wheel, to maintain course. A wave came surging over the top of the wheelhouse and cascaded down into the engine room!
The boilermen had shielded the firebox door with stacked timbers and Carl started the pumps immediately. As quickly as the tempest had arisen, it was gone and the river smoothed out.
Jason sent one deckhand at a time to get dry clothing, the river water was as cold as ice! They continued upriver, past Astoria Town and finally arrived at Portland Basin.
After checking with his shipping instructions, Georgie located the Willamette Lumber Company Wharf and nosed the Roamer in that direction, blowing the tug's steam whistle to alert the wharf hands that a tow was coming in.
After dropping the barges, Georgie tied the tug up to the Willamette Municipal Wharf and allowed the hands a couple of well deserved hours off duty!
The next morning, the lumber company officials told them the three lumber barges were loaded and ready to go. Jason inspected them and found no problems, so they spent the remainder of the day connecting two cables to each barge.
They sat overnight, tied to the wharf and started the return trip at first light. The trip downriver was hair-raising. The barges were being propelled by the strong river current and threatened to over-run the tug! Both men's hands were bruised by their grip on the wheel.
They finally passed the bar, having much the same problems as when they came upriver. As they turned south, towards home, the seas calmed and the crew could relax somewhat.
Several days passed with the towed barges behaving themselves. On the third day of their southward passage a strong crosswind came up, it took two men on the wheel to keep on course, they worked 4 hours shifts, Jason and Bert taking one shift together and Georgie with Billy taking the other.
It was tiring, but there was no other solution. At last, the entrance to San Francisco Bay appeared through the fog.
Blasting her fog horn, the Roamer slowly made her way into the bay. The lumber was consigned to Marin Building Materials in San Rafael, they secured the barges to the company's pier and hightailed it across the bay to their home in Richmond.
It had been a hard trip, but they learned many lessons that would stand them in good stead on further voyages.
They had worried about coal supplies and felt they should have topped off the bunkers in Portland. Carl was suggesting a helper in the engine room and Jason wanted a third deckhand to help during high stress periods like fog and storm.
The voyage was very profitable and Captain Cutter issued a voyage bonus to all hands!
Willie was happy to see his Big Brother return, he had been lonely and wanted his bro.
Cutter Tow Service had turned a corner, now with three tugs, they could offer customized towing service to any class customer. Captain Cutter had his eye on a brand new tug that had been built, but the customer had been unable to raise the required payment to take delivery. It was sitting, idle, at Rule Boatyards in Vallejo.
THIS IS THE END OF CHAPTER 1. LOOK FOR THE NEXT BOOK THAT TELLS HOW THE CUTTER TOW SERVICE CONTINUES TO PROSPER AND JASON CROWLEY BECOMES MASTER OF HIS OWN DESTINY!